Residents in school board District 1, the northern tip of Prince Georgeís County, would benefit from a merging of the two newcomers vying for the seat vacated by Rosalind Johnson.
Zabrina Epps, 41, an academic adviser at The Community College of Baltimore County, has a masterís in public management, and was a former budget analyst with the Maryland General Assembly and a fiscal officer with the Maryland secretary of state. She is focused on improving college readiness and is pushing for a more rigorous curriculum and creation of a community network of support for students. Her professional experience should make easy work of financial matters, although she isnít well versed on the school budget. Her other shortfalls: She lacks fresh approaches to longstanding problems and doesnít seem aware of the challenges in her district. Also, she believes the school systemís image problem hinges largely on the lack of a rallying cry or motto regarding excellence.
Her challenger, 20-year-old college student David Murray, doesnít come close in professional experience when compared to Epps, despite his stint as a student member of the Maryland State Board of Education and as an educational liaison to former County Councilman Tom Dernoga and state Sen. C. Anthony Muse. However, he makes up for it in his knowledge of the school budget and the districtís needs, and in his fresh approach to system challenges. He takes strong positions on issues that may not win friends but will likely benefit the system. For example, he believes specialty school busing needs to be reviewed, given the high costs of busing students long distances and since it may not be as highly utilized due to after-school activities. His push to make specialty programs available in more schools would work well with a new transportation plan.
Murray believes underenrolled schools need to be consolidated to be able to better allocate resources; Epps is calling for further review of the issue. Murray also believes the school systemís administrative offices could be further streamlined to lessen cuts to in-class resources; Epps believes further review is needed.
In the end, although Murray lacks significant professional experience, he comes out ahead on knowledge and ideas regarding K-12 challenges and needs, giving him a thin edge.